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Sweden’s Electoral Results in a European Perspective

September 20, 2010

Swedes went to the polls on Sunday to elect a new Riksdag (Parliament).  As the below graph shows, the voter attitudes have been shifting in Sweden.   However, this trend is actually similar to those in other West European countries.  For instance, following the trend of the Netherlands and the United Kingdom, the largest party in parliament will be from the center-right.  Secondly, the standard bearer of the center-left suffered a clear defeat.  Thirdly, a new party will be entering Parliament, which can generally be considered far-right.  While the Swedish Democrats may not be as extreme as the Dutch Freedom Party (PVV, see “Dutch Elections Surprising, Bring Change”), they will certainly add a new dimension to Swedish politics.  Fourthly, the Greens did rather well.  In this case, the Greens’ share of the vote increased from 5.2% in 2006 to 7.2% in 2010.  While this is only a two percent increase, the Greens’ were the only party in the Red-Green coalition to see its share of the vote increase, and this increase was large enough to make the Greens the third largest party in the new parliament.

The fifth common trait in West European general elections this year is that no party or coalition gained an outright majority.  While results of the Swedish election are not yet final, as votes are still being counted that were cast by Swedes living outside of Sweden, it does not appear that The Alliance will receive a majority of seats in Parliament.  The leader of the Moderates (and current Prime Minister), Fredrik Reinfeldt, has already tried to suggest a coalition with the Greens, which was quickly rebuffed.  Due to fundamental philosophical differences, it would be unlikely for the Left Party (which used to be a communist party) and the Alliance to form coalition.

This leaves two options: a grand coalition between the Moderates and the Social Democrats or the creation of a minority government.  A minority government could survive with the support of the Sweden Democrats, although Mr. Reinfeldt has already restated that he will not work with this party.  Thus, there is a possibility of a grand coalition with the Social Democrats, although the results of negotiations remain to be seen.  Comparing the Swedish election with those in the Netherlands and the UK, the question is whether a government will be form quickly like the Conservative/Liberal Democrats in the UK or else very slowly like in the Netherlands, where a government still has not been formed more than three months after the election.

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